Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #643
Number of Views: Two
Release Date: November 21, 2007
Sub-Genre: Horror Anthology
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 110 minutes
Directors: Ana Clavell, James Dudelson
Producers: Ana Clavell, James Dudelson, Stanley E. Dudelson, Robert F. Dudelson
Screenplay: Ana Clavell, James Dudelson, Scott Frazelle, Pablo C. Pappano, Alex Ugelow
Special Effects: Greg McDougall
Visual Effects: Ben Ceccarelli
Cinematography: James M. Legoy
Score: Chris Anderson
Editing: Ana Clavell
Studios: Taurus Entertainment Company, Creepy Film Productions
Distributors: Taurus Entertainment Company, HBO Home Video
Stars: Roy Abramsohn, Kris Allen, Magi Avila, A. J. Bowen, Elwood Carlisle, Ed Dyer, Bunny Gibson, Bo Kresic, Camille Lacey, Elina Madison, Emmett McGuire, Stephanie Pettee
Suggested Audio Jukebox ♫
 John Harrison “Creepshow”
 Status Quo “Down Down”
 Jason Tai, Chris Vrenna & Marshall Crutcher “Madness Returns”
 Superbus “Radio Song”
 Blondie “Call Me”
 They Might Be Giants “Dinner Bell”
 Prefab Sprout “The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll”
Few films give me such a warm glow inside as George A. Romero’s Creepshow. I’ve watched a lot of anthologies, both before and since, but nary have I seen one strike such an effortless balance between black comedy and all-out horror. Drawing its inspiration from the EC and DC comics of the fifties, Romero’s marvel unfurled before our eyes like a bona fide live action graphic novel without a solitary weak link to be discerned.
Five years later, Michael Gornick’s sequel attempted to show that lightning could strike twice, and while predictably falling some way short of the nose-bleed inducing standard set by his predecessor, Gornick actually did a pretty decent job. Despite getting off to a so-so start, there was rather a lot of devilish fun to be gleaned from Creepshow 2. Interestingly, this three-piece was originally intended to include two more tales of terror but budgetary constraints led to them having to be excised from the running order.
One of the fables, Cat From Hell, resurfaced in 1990 for Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, and for all its imperfections, John Harrison’s effort fit into the universe that Romero created rather snugly. Boasting a deliciously dark wraparound that provided a modern-day take on Hansel & Gretel and a masterful closing vignette in Lover’s Vow, it certainly brought no shame to the game. Indeed, make-up maestro Tom Savini actually regards Harrison’s film to be the true Creepshow 3.
However, somebody clearly forgot to mention this to Ana Clavell & James Dudelson and I would imagine that neither made Romero’s 2006 Christmas card list, as barely twelve months previous, the pair had done a number on another of his timeless classics after inexplicably securing the rights to his zombie masterpiece, Day of The Dead.
Day of The Dead 2: Contagium wasn’t just bad, like Steve Miner’s woefully misguided but shamefully entertaining 2008 reboot, it was downright blasphemous and easily one of the decade’s most despicable numbers. Yet astonishingly, the deadly duo were at it again twelve months later, only this time, they were afforded five chances to desecrate a genre classic. Creepshow 3 reportedly had a $3.5 million budget to draw from and one can only assume that they had a damn good caterer as it sure as shit ain’t exhibited anywhere on the screen. In the history of dud sequels, this one is right up there with their very own zombie monstrosity, and if horror cinema had its own version of the Razzies, then Clavell and Dudelson would have one helluva bustling trophy cabinet. As you may well have guessed by this point, I’m not here for back pats. Unless I’m permitted to use a hatchet, in which case, please take that bow and prepare to wince guys.
Actually I refuse to come down too hard on them as it’s clear that they have a lot of love for the motion picture they’re attempting to emulate. That said, it’s all well and good celebrating your personal heroes but it helps if you have the necessary creative tools to do such a legacy justice. I won’t be focusing my vitriol at Clavell and Dudelson as it takes a fair old passion wedgeroonie to get your art out there in the first place, but the insipid and embarrassingly amateurish Creepshow 3 won’t be getting off the hook quite that easy this day. If scathe I must, then scathe I damn well will, as this public dog foul of a movie looks funny, smells funny, and is every bit as difficult to dislodge from the heel of one’s boot. That is to say it is shit of the most diarhittic order and no amount of flushing can ever hope to remove its stain from our memories once it drops its load on our senses.
From the very first frame, signs are one beyond dubious. Creepshow 3 adopts an approach much like Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (you don’t know how hard it is to make that comparison without peeing a little in my breeches) as characters from each of its five tales are interwoven through separate stories throughout its deeply traumatic 110-minute runtime. The common thread is a hot dog stand and, straight off the bat, we are introduced to the vendor by way of animated prologue. Regrettably, this is more of the high school art project ilk, and displays not a solitary iota of either of its predecessors’ finesse, coming across more as a slapdash afterthought than thematic taster. Barely a minute has passed before that sinking feeling washes over us and we’re left praying for something to tide us over, without a great deal of confidence that land is ahoy. Mercifully, it is a short plank to walk to our opening vignette, although emphasis on this proving the most miniscule of mercies.
Alice introduces us to its titular character (Stephanie Pettee), a prissy teenage pissant with as many redeeming qualities as the movie she finds herself smack bang in the middle of. Alice returns to her awfully quaint suburban home to find her father fiddling with a universal remote like a snot-nosed kid with a fresh snout to pick. However, this isn’t your average $9.95 universal remote we’re speaking of, and instead, has the ability to distort the girl’s perceivable reality at the press of a button. To offer some kind of clue as to its mystical properties, switching Color and Hue Settings turns her entire family African-American and the Subtitles option gives their tongues a certain Hispanic flavor. Credit where it’s due, this is actually a rather dainty concept and calls to mind Wes Craven’s glorious A Little Peace & Quiet offering from The Twilight Zone. Alas, this is where I find myself all out of credits.
You see, while Alice is getting to grips with this exciting new technology, she is gradually mutating into another being entirely. I say mutating when The Incredible Melting Man would likely opt for more toxic wording. Like a life-sized raspberry ripple beneath the blazing midday sun, she weeps and oozes, and writer Clavell attempts to tie things in with Lewis Carroll’s literary great by punting us all down the rabbit hole. Technically inept, with woeful dialogue, delivery so stiff that the universal remote deserves top billing, and the architectural integrity of a malformed aubergine, it is left to some crude but admittedly icky effects to avert our eyes from the train wreck before us. One in the bag and your primary instinct will likely be to light Creepshow 3 on fire, drop it on the nearest doorstep, ring that bell and run like hell. However, we Grueheads are made of stern stuff and it evidently can’t get any worse right?
Correctamundo. There comes a time during any shit storm, when the gusts momentarily subside allowing us to take a sniff of something less fecal and The Radio does just that. Our elected down and out is Jerry (A. J. Bowen), a part-time security guard who procures said piece of equipment from a vagrant vendor and my guess would be that it dropped off the precise same production line as that infernal universal remote. One of its exclusive functions is to converse with Jerry; although the suggestions it spouts don’t appear to have its user’s best interests at heart. Ga-ga says loot, Jerry loots – that’s how this transaction plays out in earnest – and sometimes you just have to roll with those punches. That said, when the next low blow proposes cold-blooded murder, it’s time to tune out of the frequency before shit gets real, real fast, and take up reading instead. Of course, Jerry is all at sea amidst the white noise by this point.
While The Radio isn’t nearly clever enough to pull us out of the deepening mire, it benefits tremendously by a spirited and genuinely believable turn from Bowen. Having been massively impressed with this young man on a number of occasions already (Ti West’s The House of The Devil and Adam Wingard’s You’re Next & A Horrible Way To Die to name but three), I’m more than aware of his ability to play anchor and none of the blame can be placed on his doorstep before you begin lighting those fires. If this segment fails, and it is unquestionably the least pungent of a fairly whiffy bunch, then it is because it never really goes anywhere, despite its lead’s most valiant efforts. It’s ultimately all about perspective and this particular vantage allows me to single it out for the faintest of praise. But the thing about diarrhea is that it tends to be involuntary and story number three is shat in our faces just as we prepare to supply A.J. a wolf whistle.
You could scribble the plot for Call Girl across a soiled tampon and still have space to accommodate a blood clot. We join good time gal Rachael (Camille Lacey) as she straddles her timid latest client Victor (Ryan Carty) and prepares to ride him into the headboard like Seabiscuit. Climax for Rachael entails less in the way of knee trembles and more death rattles as the only thing that pleases her more than sex is a spot of first degree murder and poor Victor is about to go as fast as he can cum. After stabbing him in the chest and placing a pillow over his head, she considers it job done and heads off for a quick shoehorned in shower. What she’s not aware of is that Victor isn’t quite the innocent wallflower he first appeared and there’s something of a shock awaiting Rachael on her return.
That’s your lot I’m afraid, the premise for Call Girl may as well have been dreamed up by a six-year-old as it takes one rudimentary idea and runs with it for as long as it can get away with. Thank the heavens above, this isn’t a great length of time, and it’s over faster than you can spark up your post-coitus cigarette. For all the film’s numerous faults up until this point, it did have a couple of half-decent ideas knocking about, albeit not the faintest inkling how to implement them successfully. This, on the other hand, is bottom of the barrel fare and doesn’t bode at all well for Creepshow 3 moving forward.
Desperate to prove that this wasn’t a fluke, The Professor’s Wife achieves this by offering a similarly threadbare plot of the fortune cookie variety. Professor Dayton (Emmett McGuire) invites two former students, Charles (Michael Madrid) and John (Ben Pronsky), to his house for a home cooked meal lovingly prepared by his new trophy fiancée Kathy (Bo Kresic) and the pair soon suspect that she may in fact be a robot. Her behavior is a little odd to say the least and she doesn’t eat or drink so naturally Charles and John presume that she must be mechanical and decide to dismantle her on the spot. I’ll give you three guesses what’s coming next.
Lo-and-behold, Kathy isn’t a cyborg after all and this leaves the boys with some serious explaining to do, not to mention a spot of decidedly messy hurried disposal. Meanwhile, the poor professor resorts to purchasing an advanced voodoo kit from the homeless street vendor we keep seeing floating about suspiciously in order to reconstruct his fair lady in time for the upcoming nuptials. Perhaps the most mind-boggling thing about The Professor’s Wife is that the flooring of Dayton’s cozy little love nest has actually been overlaid in post. I’m not a fan of CGI at the best of times but never before have I seen this process used for something so utterly bonkers as fucking floorboards. Give me strength.
Closing things out is Haunted Dog and this proves that Clavell and Dudelson have no intention whatsoever of sending their audience away on anything resembling a high. Here the focus is on cheap skate physician, Dr. Farwell (Kris Allen), who is working a 30-day sentence at a free clinic by order of the law. Bedside manner is not Farwell’s strong suit, as attested by his harsh treatment of a young girl suffering from a brain tumor and a pensioner going blind. After buying a hot dog from you know who and dropping it on the ground before he can lick his lips, he decides to do his good deed for the day and donates said grubby wiener to a nearby street urchin (Ed Dyer) who has been bothering him for his pocket change. One hearty chomp later and it’s time to call the coroner. Time for a dash of haunting methinks.
It should come as no great surprise that our not-so-good doctor then begins to receive visitation from the bum in question and is made to rue his callous behavior. Meanwhile, we’re starting to feel the gloom around us lifting, not because Haunted Dog is anything other than fast-food silage, but on account of the 110 minute timer just about to go DING! Somehow and in a manner no less than a mystery, we have endured Creepshow 3 and still have a faint pulse in our chests. Granted, our cherished memories of Creepshows past have now been soundly sullied, but we’ll never again be required to take such an agonizing jaunt through the lowest depths of modern cinema (unless we’re Keeper and have taken it upon ourselves to appraise the bastard). Let’s just say that this movie doesn’t benefit from subsequent views and leave it there shall we?
No, fuck it. It is my duty to warn you all about the cleverly disguised banana skin that is Creepshow 3 in the hope that you will never be tempted to stumble into its path. To be fair (and I’m loathed to play Samaritan here), grab a few beers and buddies and there is a case for laughing the best part of two drunken hours away at just how categorically inept it is. That said, if you hold Romero’s original in lofty regard as I do, then I’d recommend a quick round of spin the bottle instead, even if you’re drinking solo. It has the consistency of ostrich phlegm and I know emus that would turn their snouts up at Clavell and Dudelson’s abomination as it truly is as godawful as hype would have you believe. The Radio alone earns it an additional mark that it hardly warrants in truth, but just remember kiddiwinks, three most certainly isn’t the magic number.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 3/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: I award a three for grue through gritted teeth as the practical make-up is mostly of the bog-standard variety, the visual effects stink like a fart in a bathtub, and no amount of mildly impressive melting missies or hacked off body parts can gloss over the fact that we’re dying a little more inside with every passing moment. The closest I can come to a compliment here would be to suggest that the effects are probably the best Creepshow 3 has going for it. Seldom has mercy been crammed into such a tiny package. Now if you’ll excuse me, I was going to varnish my floor, but I happen to know a six-year-old kid with Windows Paint.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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